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Filtering by Tag: travis griffith

Week Two: A Disturbing Exodus

Travis Griffith

I enjoy a challenge. I get off on challenging other people's existing perceptions and smile when my personal views and ideas are questioned.

And so I smiled while reading a comment from reader Marcia on my last post. Part of what she said was,

you must remember as much as you would like to believe that you are coming at this reading with an open mind, none of us is capable of completely being open to ideas that challenge our current views.

While that's a powerful statement, I respectfully disagree. Regular readers know how passionately I once conformed to atheism. Part of me (a lot of me, sometimes) still wants to cling to an atheistic view because it's easier and more convenient and somehow rebellious and cool. However, because my mind was open to entering a new spiritual paradigm, I reject atheism yet still strongly respect those who embrace it.

An open mind led to a new way of thinking.

That is how I am approaching my Bible read. I may not want to believe it, I may point out parts that seem contradictory, but my mind is open to the possibility that the Bible means much more than I've ever given it credit for.

That wasn't easy while reading through Exodus. Frankly, I'm severely disturbed by it. I naturally have more questions, some of which I'll pose here, and hope for a discussion on possible answers in the comments.

Before the last two weeks, there was one section of the Bible that I read: the Burning Bush. Something similar happened to me, which I can pinpoint as the moment I left atheism. That's a long story but it ultimately put me on the path I'm on now. Reading that story with fresh eyes was inspiring and resonated as truth from the loving God who introduced himself to me.

From there, though, something changes in the book. God seems to go from lovingly proving his existence and bestowing hope on humanity to killing them. Why?

Why torture the Egyptians with plagues? Why kill all their first-born babies? If the only answer is simply, "Because they didn't accept the Lord God," then I can only shake my head in disbelief and sadness.

The theme continues through the explanation of Passover, when God passes over the people he likes to go "slaughter" the ones he doesn't. It just makes me cringe.

The Red Sea is another example. The Israelites pass through the waters safely, but God drowns the Egyptians, causing the Israelites to celebrate.

Recent events have shown me that celebrating the death of our enemies makes us no better and I was under the impression that God supported that view. So I'm left confused by the words and events in Exodus.

As horrible as I find the killing of perceived enemies, I'm simply flabbergasted at the timing of the reveal of the Ten Commandments. Number six: Thou Shalt Not Kill.

Is there a difference between human sin and that of the divine?

My disgust went into overdrive when Moses was at Mount Sinai speaking with the Lord and the people below committed a sin: creating a golden calf and worshipping it. God and Moses entered an absolute rage, followed by these words:

Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, Put your sword on your hip, every one of you! Now go up and down the camp, from gate to gate, and slay your own kinsmen, your friends and neighbors!

Are you kidding me? The punishment for one sin is to commit another? Now we're not killing enemies, but our own people! This troubles me.

Then irony presented itself again a page or two later when God says, "The Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity..."

As troubled as I am so far by the content, I am impressed by the depth of characters so far and the continuity between generations of people, and how each contributes to the consequences of the next. The incredible depth of the Bible is beginning to show through.

Exodus: who else is troubled?


Travis Griffith, Relief’s Blog Manager, is a former atheist now exploring what a spiritual life really means. His children’s book, Your Father Forever, was published in 2005 by Illumination Arts Publishing Company, Inc. Travis works from his home in Spokane, WA as a professional writer.

Bear Witness as I Experience My First Time...

Travis Griffith

It seems we’re born into a world where everyone is blind.

We don’t know who we are; so we search, arms outstretched, wandering, hoping we run into some form of ourselves that might know the answers.

It’s during that journey through the darkness that many people turn to religion.

Religion provides millions of people with the answers they seek, but for countless others it only raises more questions that outweigh the faith required to believe.

My journey is about to take a turn that every fiber of my being tells me not to follow. And I’m going to need your help.

First, though, a little history.

I spent the first 28 years of my life staunchly opposed to the idea of God and dismissed Christianity, along with all other religions, as mythical stories believed only by the weak-minded.

Then, about six years ago, some things began to happen that jolted my perception of the spiritual realm; things that seem unreal when I look back at them today.  Eventually those experiences opened some new paths in my life, one of which led to the Relief Journal.

It’s been about two years since my first blog at Relief and I’ve contributed sporadically since then. Just recently I had the opportunity to take the blog manager position here, which I humbly accepted.

Many people, including myself, find this more than ironic considering my anti-Christian past. I still don’t label myself a Christian, but I am highly spiritual and have developed a deep respect for all religions, including Christianity.

After accepting the position here, a friend posed a resounding and poignant question. She said, “You don’t comment on movies you haven’t seen, right? How can you comment on a religion when you haven’t read its book?”

Well… shit. I didn’t have an answer. At least not a good one.

While I love being right, I’m certainly not opposed to admitting when I’ve been called out. That was a moment I had my legs swept from beneath me and I could only raise the white flag of defeat while acknowledging she had one hell of a good point.

So I decided I should read the Bible.

You have to understand that if I had the choice between getting caught by someone while secretly reading the Bible or watching porn involving transvestite grandmas with Spanish men, I’d choose the porn every time. There’s not as much shame involved.

I’ve thrown at least two Bibles in the garbage and even seriously considered burning the insanely expensive one we got for our wedding just to see those pathetically thin pages go up in flames.

And so I’ve gone from that closed-minded attitude of years past to openly committing to read the Bible, in its entirety. Even writing those words causes my blood pressure to rise, though I’m not sure if it’s out of embarrassment, because I’m fundamentally opposed to the book or just afraid of what I might find in it.

I’ll start on May 2 and, as my editors here requested, try to finish on July 30. That’s only 90 days, and I’ll try, but make no promises! I do promise to document my progress and express my thoughts and reactions to the book in this space. I expect some of it will piss me off, some will make me laugh, some will cause me to shake my head in disbelief and some, hopefully, will resonate with messages of pure, unconditional love.

At least a couple of Relief staffers have committed to read during the same time, and I hope you will too. I could use the help with my questions, have you take part in the comments and hopefully get inspiration from your reactions as you witness a guy experiencing the Bible for the first time.

Any tips for a Bible virgin?


Travis Griffith, Relief's Blog Manager, is a former atheist now exploring what a spiritual life really means. His children’s book, Your Father Forever, was published in 2005 by Illumination Arts Publishing Company, Inc. Travis works from his home in Spokane, WA as a professional writer.

Worshiping Nature, Exorcisms, and a Retort… of sorts.

Ian David Philpot

Clare Gajkowski-Zajicek responds to Travis Griffith's post "Avatar: What's the Big Deal?"

May I begin by saying that I have never seen Avatar nor heard about the Vatican’s remarks on the film before reading Travis Griffith’s blog post. Though I agree with Travis’ overall theme of love and embracing those of other faiths, races, religions, etc., let’s not hate on the Vatican, just to hate on the Vatican, shall we? What if they have… dare I say… their reasons?

Since people are so eager to talk about their spirituality these days, let’s talk about the spiritual realm on this Earth. There are believed to be two parts to this realm, the supernatural and preternatural. The supernatural is manifested by visible acts and the preternatural is manifested by unseen acts and forces. Miracles can fall under both categories. Evil, however, also falls under both.

“Not to believe in evil is not to be armed against it. To disbelieve is to be disarmed. If your will does not accept the existence of evil, you are rendered incapable of resisting evil. Those with no capacity of resistance become prime targets for Possession.” –Malachi Martin

When was the last time you heard about an exorcism? Do you think they don’t occur? Do you believe that people are just mentally ill and it’s just another crazy old Catholic ritual? (That argument never really made sense; the possessed has to go through a thorough examination and agree to the exorcism. It cannot be forced upon them.)

Dr. Malachi Martin is one of the hundreds of priests who have witnessed an exorcism- but he also wrote one of the most profound books on the issue: Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans. He followed and studied other priests who had performed exorcisms, finding them years later as broken and hollow shells of human beings from the stress of the ritual. Most of the occurrences had themes or similarities - the subjects who became possessed were obsessed with the Earth and its elements, “the mystery of nature,” they were cynical of religion, or they attempted to “transcend” this Earthy realm. In one way or another they opened themselves up to the supernatural and the preternatural. In their particular cases, evil snuck in.

During my years at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, I finished my major early and studied Comparative Literature with a Franciscan priest. It was around this time I read Malachi Martin’s book, after randomly picking it up at a used bookstore. I mentioned this book to the Franciscan, and he became extremely somber. He told me to be careful, and that he himself had performed three exorcisms in his lifetime. (It took him months to actually explain these events, and when I heard them I understood why. This is also a man who has probably never told a lie in his life.)

“Avatar asks us to see that everything is connected, all human beings to each other and us to the Earth.” – James Cameron

An excerpt from Malachi Martin’s book, the case of a young priest being possessed in 1964:

His yielding [control] at Mass had immediate and far-reaching effects. In baptizing infants, he changed the Latin words, which were unintelligible to the parents and bystanders. When he was supposed to say, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” he said, “I baptize you in the name of the Sky, the Earth, and Water.” In Confession, he stopped saying “I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”; instead, he said, “I confirm you in your natural wishes, in the name of Sky, Earth, and Water.”

My first point is: I don’t think the Vatican was only worried about the worship of nature and neo-paganism in Avatar- they’re worried about what those practices can lead to.

“As long as beliefs are based on love, who’s to say who gets to claim the correct one?” –Travis Griffith

My second point is: let’s be careful what we worship. I agree we need to embrace everyone, of every faith, with love. But it’s a fine line when worshiping the Earth- we need to see the danger in this. Jesus came to this world to build the Kingdom of God. Since that was impossible here, why worship such a place?


Clare Gajkowski-Zajicek is a graphic designer and videographer who graduated from UW-Milwaukee with a degree in Communication. She currently resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with her husband and pet snapping turtle, Roger. She spends most of her time watching movies and eating starchy foods. (Mostly potatoes.)  Clare's poem "Church Fathers" can be found in Relief Issue 3.2.